Ukraine conflict: Kyiv braces for Russian assault

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The sound of gunfire has echoed through Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as Russian tanks were filmed entering the city for the first time.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence called on those living in Kyiv’s northern outskirts – where the tanks were filmed – to make fire bombs “to neutralise the enemy”.

Overnight, the city was hit by blasts, with at least one block of flats damaged and several civilians injured.

Russia has denied carrying out strikes.

The unnamed source at Russia’s defence ministry also said a plane shot down over Kyiv was Ukrainian, Reuters news agency reports. Ukraine has said the jet was Russian.

As the second day of fighting began, Moscow – which is attacking from the east, north and south – appeared to have Kyiv firmly in its sights.

Clashes have been reported between the two sides, with Ukrainian forces blowing up a bridge in an attempt to slow Russia’s advance.

Citizens in the northern Obolon district were told to stay at home to avoid “active military operations” by city officials on Friday, Reuters adds. Obolon is the same area where it appeared tanks were filmed earlier in the day.

Ukraine says at least 137 people – civilians and soldiers – have been killed, with UN estimates suggesting more than 100,000 people have already fled from their homes (Photo: The New York Times)

The Ministry of Defence had already appealed to the district’s residents on its Facebook page to “inform us of troop movements, to make Molotov cocktails [firebombs] and neutralise the enemy”.

Overnight, families took shelter in Kyiv’s metro stations as aerial attacks struck the city, including the densely populated Pozniake area, injuring at least eight.

“Putin, we want to see you slaughtered like an animal,” one Kyiv resident told the BBC’s Nick Beake.

“How we can live through it in our time?” Oxana Gulenko asked Reuters as she cleaned up broken glass from one blast. “What should we think. Putin should be burnt in hell along with his whole family.”

“They [the Russians] say that civilian objects are not targets. It is a lie,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released early on Friday. “The reality is that they don’t see a difference in which areas they target.”

Ukraine says at least 137 people – civilians and soldiers – have been killed, with UN estimates suggesting more than 100,000 people have already fled from their homes. Overnight, at least 1,000 Ukrainians arrived by train in Poland’s south-eastern city of Przemysl alone.

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said the UK estimated Russia had lost 450 personnel since Moscow launched the offensive in the early hours of Thursday morning after weeks of escalating tensions, as Russia massed troops around the country.

President Vladimir Putin – who declared war in a dramatic televised address – has threatened any country attempting to interfere with “consequences you have never seen”.

Western intelligence officials earlier warned that Russia was building an “overwhelming force” to take control of Kyiv, although air and missile strikes have rained down on cities and military bases across the country, with tanks rolling in across three sides of Ukraine’s vast border.

In the face of stark odds, Ukraine’s President Zelensky has vowed to continue fighting. He said “a new iron curtain” was falling into place and his job was to make sure his country remained on its Western side.

There have already been stories of immense bravery – including that of 13 border guards on a tiny island in the Black Sea who refused to surrender to a Russian warship and were massacred in a bombardment.

President Zelensky said they would be given posthumous war hero honours.

Thursday also saw fighting around the site of the former nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said the nuclear site itself had been lost following a “fierce battle”.

On Friday, Ukraine’s nuclear agency said it was recording raised radiation levels in the area. A statement released by Russia’s Ministry of Defence said levels were normal, adding an agreement had been reached “to ensure security of the power plant and sarcophagus of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant”. (BBC)

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